Player Profiles – Elena Reid
Elena originally came to Scotland in 1998 from Siberia, Russia to study. She fell in love, married, started a family and now lives in Nairn in the Highlands. She is chairperson of the Highland-Russia Connection charity, which promotes cultural links between Scotland and Russia. Right now the charity has an exhibition on Scottish culture which includes a display of paintings and Russian dolls, painted by artists of many nationalities living in Scotland. This is displayed, along with Scottish dress and a signed football donated by Celtic, as part of an exhibition at Kemerovo State University of Culture and Art. To find out more visit www.highlandrussia.org.uk/
Interest in Football
Elena has never previously played football.
“When I heard about Forest Pitch I thought it was a good chance to find out why so many people like this sport that I had never tried. I have found I like it and have been going out with my family to play in a field near our house.”
Despite living hundreds of miles from where the training sessions are taking place in Glasgow and from the Forest Pitch site near Selkirk, Elena was determined to get involved.
“This is such a great opportunity to be involved in the Cultural Olympiad, so I am really looking forward to the match.”
Player Profiles – Zahir Alizaie
From Herat in Afghanistan, Zahir’s life has been deeply affected by war. During the Russian occupation of his country he was forced to spend a year in Iran. In the current conflict he became a target for the Taliban and came to Scotland with his wife and young children following the killing of his cousin.
Zahir and his family love Glasgow and the friendliness of its people – he recalls how when he was first here, and spoke little English, and elderly woman went to tremendous lengths to help when he needed directions.
“It is a very different country and we had to learn a lot about life and culture. But people have always been very friendly and take time to answer questions. We have made many friends and have built ourselves a new life here.”
Interest in football
While in Iran Zahir played football a lot and has continued ever since. After arriving in Scotland six years ago he became a founder, and is now manager, of Glasgow Afghan United FC. The club provides a great chance for young Afghans to get involved in Scottish life and to mix with people from the same cultural background. Many share similar experiences of war, conflict and separation from their families.
Zahir says: “Some of them are very young when they come here, they have no father or older brother to help them, and the country and its culture are very new. We have to care for each other and also to learn to look after ourselves. The club provides a focus for them, something very positive in their lives. It is good for them to come and play football, to develop their skills and meet each other.”
He believes that sport is an excellent way to give young people a positive direction in a society where alcohol, tobacco and drugs are prevalent.
Zahir has encouraged team members to join him in taking part in Forest Pitch.
“It’s a great idea, we all love to play football and this is a very good way to meet all sorts of different people. Some of our players are very good, so it will be a very good game.”